Mini habits recognize that any new habit is going to take time to develop. We must get our reps in. After we have established a solid foundation, we can build on it. We are often told that we should never try to develop more than one habit at a time. This is great advice. The biggest mistake we can make about our willpower is placing too many simultaneous demands on it. The mental reserve we draw from to exert willpower is severely limited. Fortunately, with mini habits, this singular focus is unnecessary.
Most of us want to develop multiple new habits. It takes a lot of self-control to focus on just one and ignore the others. The low willpower cost of mini habits means you can build multiple habits at once. They are so small we can create three or four at a time. As we follow through on our mini self-commitments, it will build our willpower and self-esteem.
Habits not only build our willpower, but they also conserve it. Habits flow, unfettered by conscious thought. We aren’t struggling with a decision. We are reacting to a cue. Habits and environmental design are long-term strategies for conserving willpower. They allow us to avoid making a decision that would erode our willpower through decision fatigue. Instead of making a decision, we encounter a cue and execute a routine. Continue reading MINI HABITS HAVE A LOW WILLPOWER COST
Have you ever procrastinated starting a project because you felt overwhelmed? If you have, you’ve been the victim of subjective fatigue. Beginning a task carries the full weight of the commitment. Our mind looks ahead and calculates the work, which causes us to feel exhausted before we can start. What we think is laziness is often exhaustion. Mini habits are so silly small that they are nearly weightless. Mini habits kill procrastination. They carry almost no subjective fatigue.
Another cognitive bias that acts as an obstacle to starting is called the spotlight effect. Whenever we step outside our comfort zone, our mind magnifies the difficulty of the task. Like subjective fatigue, it causes us to feel overwhelmed. Mini habits don’t raise any cognitive red flags because they are so easy to do. Mini habits circumnavigate these mental roadblocks to starting. Once we begin, we can base our decision to continue on the task’s actual difficulty – not a distorted version of it. As we develop the habit, our perceived difficulty will diminish, not because it has gotten easier, but because we have gotten better. Continue reading MINI HABITS REDUCE OUR NATURAL RESISTANCE TO CHANGE
Mini habits are designed to be ridiculously easy. Its creator recognizes that Newton’s First Law applies to psychology as much as it does to physics. Newton’s First Law, sometimes referred to as the Law of Inertia states, an object at rest stays at rest and an object in motion stays in motion unless acted upon by an external force. We resist new behaviors the way an object resists a change in state. Our existing routines flow, they have momentum on their side. The biggest disadvantage that a new habit has it that inertia is working against it. Fortunately, mini habits are so easy to do that they don’t require much energy to overcome inertia. The willpower cost of mini habits is almost non-existent. A mini habit is the smallest of nudges – but that slight shove is all that is needed to put Newton’s First Law in our corner. Momentum becomes our ally instead of our enemy. We go from unstartable to unstoppable.
Mini habits are so small that our mind doesn’t put up any resistance to starting. Once in motion, we can do as much or as little as we want. Since the behavior is something we are motivated to develop, chances are we’ll want to do more than the minimum. Mini habits are unambitious by design. Ambition, like perfectionism, is the enemy of progress. When we are too ambitious, we’ll often do nothing – like the person afraid to make a mistake. We will convince ourselves that if we cannot do everything, we won’t do anything. We will pick back up tomorrow. We always think tomorrow we will have more time, willpower, and motivation. Good is not the enemy. Inaction is. Continue reading The Magic of Mini Habits
Our desire for a fresh start causes us to waste a lot of time waiting. Why wait for a new year, a new month, or a new week. Tomorrow is a new beginning. Why not PLAN today – START tomorrow – and NEVER quit! A lot of people will tell us to start NOW, which isn’t bad advice if you are prone to procrastination, but research has shown that we do better when we have a plan. Research on implementation intentions suggests we will be much more likely to follow through if we have a plan. Planning can be exciting, but don’t let it turn into a form of procrastination.
If you have a strong desire to implement a new habit, put that motivation to good use by planning when you’ll implement the new habit. Motivation not put to work is like water spilling from a leaky damn instead of being put to work by the mill. Motivation gets us started, but without a plan, we will quickly wander off course. Create an implementation intention. Decide when and where you are going to begin. Develop if-then plans. For example, your implementation intention could be to exercise for 20-minutes each morning right after waking up and drinking a glass of water. You prepare by laying your clothing out the night before and deciding what kind of exercise you are going to do. If 20-minutes feels like too much, you can start with a 5-minute commitment. Your if-then plan could be, if I oversleep or somehow miss my workout, I will exercise as soon as I get home from work. Continue reading New Year’s Resolutions – Why Wait?
Our willpower is severely limited, and every demand for self-restraint draws from a single source. They will look at their list and blame their lack of willpower when they should be blaming their list and their lack of focus. No one has enough willpower for that list. Sometimes a single willpower challenge will feel like one demand too many.
It is easy to blame their failure on a lack of willpower or motivation because if they had an extraordinary amount of either, they could have powered through, but the real culprit was their poor strategy. Anything that is outside of our comfort zone is going to trigger resistance. We want to shrink the commitment so that we only take a tiny step outside our comfort zone – expanding it slightly. Once our Elephant gets comfortable with that, we can encourage him to take additional steps. Our comfort zone will eventually expand. We always want to have enough willpower to keep our habit alive. Shrinking down our commitment ensures we will always be able to do it. These tiny steps aren’t a finish line, they are a starting line. You can always do more when you are motivated to do so, but don’t rely on motivation. Continue reading Why New Year’s Resolutions Fail